Over the last several years, grading, path building, grass seeding, tree transplanting and more have been steadily closing in on the temple, held back only by the need for large trucks and equipment to still enter the immediately adjacent area.
In July, terraforming was done directly around the temple with heavy equipment to establish good drainage. Then an eight-foot-wide path a few feet out from the temple’s foundation wall was created with a heavy duty plastic grid set on top of the compacted dirt, then filled with soil and planted with grass. It’s a pradakshina path for pilgrims circumambulating the temple. The grid will also support the heavy boom lift used three times a year to maintain the gold-leafed towers.
Early in the year, three containers of granite tile arrived from China for the second prakaram floor. Work is expected to begin in October and take about four months. The final two containers also arrived from India, carrying Iraivan’s Nandi, along with dozens of pots for Iraivan’s outside wall, ornate new granite cladding for the bases of Kadavul Temple’s Nandi, kodimaram and balipitham.
The entrance staircase leading up from the Wailua River was nearly completed, with its family of elephants striding up the steps. Partially complete is the redwood shrine for the 500-pound stone bell. The central passageway to the temple, which had for decades been full of potholes, was replaced with a 6-inch thick, ten-foot-wide, 650-foot-long concrete drive. Our worst road has become our best, newly named Siva Salai.The design, writing and much of the bas-relief artwork were completed for the 35 bronze panels that will adorn the perimeter wall. These informative panels will tell the full history and making of Iraivan, as well as the philosophy behind it all.
In a big change for visitors, we widened the entry to the Rudraksha Forest and expanded the parking. Now the entire Forest and Hanuman garden is open from 8am to 4pm to pilgrims, who may now walk on their own to Iraivan from the forest.
How close we are to completion was signified by the receipt of the temple’s Certificate of Occupancy and closure of our building permit, issued September 26, 2000. Four inspectors came to review the current state of the amazing structure. Following their inspection, they released the longest running permit in the county’s history.
Back in the late 1990s, island officials were unfamiliar with Indian engineering. To assuage their fears, the monks flew Iraivan’s chief architect, Ganapati Sthapati, from India and took him to the county building department where he shared that his ancestors had built the Big Temple in Thanjavur a thousand years ago, which is still standing and in good condition. Iraivan, too, he assured them, will last 1,000 years and more. After three days of discussions, they concluded, “We get it. It’s all held together by gravity!” Based on that, the permit was approved.